Our review pipe failed to pick up Wilderun‘s last epic Sleep at the Edge of the World in time to make it onto the 2015 Top 10 list. And this sucked big time, given the undeniable qualities of this beautiful piece.
But things moved to the bright side this time. Veil of Imagination just made it onto the blog, which – I guess – is good news. But this new record does nonetheless have mightily big shoes to fill.
It’s predecessor displayed a distinct sense of mastery difficult to beat in a sophomore album. With a rough and folksy appearance, and a pleasant flow to boot. So, Wilderun‘s new concoction needs to run at very high octane levels to really best their 2015 offering.
It is thus no surprise that this band always remained very high on my list of preferred outfits. Not only because they’re good but because they don’t pretend. They don’t imitate, and they will not follow some sort of undercurrent. In short, they are totally authentic in what they do.
Similarities do exist, of course. Like the sometimes eerie resemblance to Fleshgod Apocalypse. Perhaps not quite at the atomic meltdown levels of the latter, but still. With sometimes a lot of Opeth and a dose of good ‘ol Turisas thrown in for good measure. To add to this overall rampant goodness, the album often sounds like something Steven Wilson should have made. Had he grown some trve metallic chops, that is. But he went elsewhere.
In a way, Veil of Imagination – as a theme project – always reminds me of Nightwish’s latest attempt at grandeur. The latter tried this big-ass theme – and then failed to really follow through with it. And all this down to the cringy monologues to really round things up.
Whereas with Wilderun‘s latest you get the feeling of flow and a storyline that really matches the soundscape. Albeit that it won’t quite beat Sleep in that department. But that just means that this band plays in its own league. So, there you have it.
Veil turned out to be a record that needs time to mature. Wilderun saw fit to serve something so complex, you need to twirl this disk a few times before the record’s qualities really reveal themselves.
And that makes me fear that the band will risk losing a large number of fans. Great complexity and a relatively unknown brand name usually don’t mix well. Even if that smaller fanbase will be very loyal.
Veil of Imagination also displays a shift away from the Folk and Progressive Metal realms that Sleep was famous for. Moreover, Wilderun just went ahead and redefined the meaning of Death Metal.
Their tune gallivants between progressive and symphonic, to melodic, to trve and down-in-the-pit deathly growls. Then to confuse the listener further, the band adds acoustics, excellently executed choirs, and ambient passages with clear voice vocals. All of that just to muddy the waters a bit more. A medley of – how to call it – Post Death Metal of all kinds and colors.
Their knack to link orchestral parts with growls and rough chugging continuously blew my mind, too. Something that Xaon did pretty well already, but surely not at that level. It just kind of flows all through the soundscape they create.
Towards the end, you’ll even find a crafty integration of dissonance that the band uses to portray difficulties. Usually, that’s a hallmark of Extreme Metal and to see it on a more progressive record just took me aback. Together with polyrhythmics that suddenly attack out of nowhere, this is yet another example of this masterful subtlety that this band is able to deliver.
Such delicious and abject sophistication risks breeding disaster if one is not careful. And it is there that the Dan Swanö mix and Jens Bogren‘s master come in.
If you have two heavyweights of the production realm descend onto Veil of Imagination things can only be good, right? Well, not always, but – luckily – on this particular record, they formed a dream team. And the outcome is pretty impressive. Even with rampant intricacy and this sore urge to add unnecessary detail, I had trouble to find fault. Even if the loudness is pretty high at times, you get a finely tuned piece with stellar separation.
So, is Veil really that good?
At first Veil of Imagination did not impress me much. And that’s my bad. This is a record that will need time to digest, there’s so much going on. So, I warmly suggest you take a quiet moment, sit down and listen to the album in one go. This is not a piece for the fast and furious. Those that inevitably will detect a level of cheese that is just not there.
And what about those mighty big shoes? Well, Veil turned out to be at least on par with its predecessor. An eerily perfect execution of a theme project that we have seldom seen to date (ain’t it, Nightwish?).
Loud, yet soft. Grandiose and refined. Epic, but never overwhelming. Metallic, yet embedded in a fantasy land of vivid colors in soft acoustic melodies. A record that will dazzle you with its intricacies and delicate, yet brutal structures. That’s the essence of Veil of Imagination.
In short, one of the best records I had the pleasure to listen to so far in the Year of the Lord 2019. And I’m not sure it can be beaten.
Get dat tune: